More Than 60 Utah GOP State Lawmakers Back Possible Romney Senate Challenger

Ryan Morgan
By Ryan Morgan
August 11, 2023Politicsshare
More Than 60 Utah GOP State Lawmakers Back Possible Romney Senate Challenger
The Utah State Capitol in Salt Lake City, Utah, on March 28, 2018 (Rick Bowmer/AP Photo)

More than 60 Republican members of the Utah state legislature are putting their support behind Utah state House Speaker Brad Wilson to challenge Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) in the 2024 Utah Republican Senate primary election.

Mr. Wilson has been weighing a primary challenge against Mr. Romney for several months. On Thursday, his Senate exploratory committee announced (pdf) the endorsements of dozens of Utah state lawmakers. In total, Mr. Wilson has the backing of three-quarters of Utah House Republicans and two-thirds of Utah Senate Republicans, including House Majority Leader Mike Schultz and Senate President Stuart Adams.

I am honored and encouraged to have the support of so many leaders from all corners of this great state,” Mr. Wilson said in a Thursday press statement. “Utah needs a bold, conservative fighter in the U.S. Senate and I am humbled at the support and encouragement we’ve received so quickly.”

I’ve been in the trenches with him for the last nine years and I can say confidently that Brad Wilson is the conservative champion we need in the U.S. Senate,” added Mr. Schultz. “Brad Wilson never takes no for an answer and will fight tirelessly to defend Utah values and our constitutional freedoms in Washington.”

Mr. Adams touted Mr. Wilson’s collaborative skills and success in cutting taxes across three consecutive years, passing new gun rights legislation, and providing Utah parents with “unprecedented school choice.”

Brad Wilson knows how to collaborate and has a history of delivering victories for conservative principles here in Utah, and that is why we need him in the U.S. Senate,” Mr. Adams said.

While Mr. Wilson’s endorsement statement makes no mention of Mr. Romney, his exploratory committee website has made clear that he’s weighing a run for the Senate seat Mr. Romney currently holds.

Romney Divides Utah Republican Base

Mr. Romney has yet to officially announce he’s running for re-election in 2024, though he did file a candidacy statement with the Federal Election Commission last month. If he decides to run, it will be his first re-election bid since winning his senate seat in 2018.

While Mr. Wilson is exploring his own options, Republican Riverton Mayor Trent Staggs has already officially announced he’s running for the Senate seat.

One factor fueling the primary challenges is dissatisfaction among Republicans with Mr. Romney’s tenure. Mr. Romney voted in favor of impeaching fellow Republican President Donald Trump in both impeachment cases.

After voting to impeach President Trump in 2021, Mr. Romney escaped censure from the Utah Republican Party, with 798 Utah Republican Party delegates voting against the censure bill and 711 supporting it. The Republican Party of Weber County, Utah, did pass a censure resolution against Mr. Romney just days after the state-level effort failed.

“The Weber County Republican Convention censures Mitt Romney for his votes to convict President Trump in two U.S. Senate impeachment trials which denied the President due process, allowed falsified evidence, did not provide adequate time for an investigation, and did not follow the U.S. Constitution which states a President may only be impeached for high crimes and misdemeanors,” the Weber County GOP’s resolution said.

In the 2022 mid-term elections fellow Utah Republican Sen. Mike Lee appeared on an interview with then-Fox News host Tucker Carlson, a popular conservative commentator, and called out Mr. Romney for declining to endorse his re-election bid. Mr. Lee argued that his opponent, Evan McMullin was a “closeted Democrat” and argued that a victory for Mr. McMullin would “perpetuate the Democratic majority” in the U.S. Senate. In the lead-up to the 2022 midterms, the Utah Democratic Party voted not to run their own campaign and to instead endorse Mr. McMullin.

Mr. Lee ultimately won his 2022 re-election, beating Mr. McMullin by about 10 points.

Upon announcing his plans to challenge Mr. Romney, Mr. Staggs said, “The only thing I’ve seen him fight for are the establishment, wokeness, open borders, impeaching President Trump, and putting us even deeper into debt.”

Mr. Staggs has also criticized Mr. Romney for a 2019 controversy in which it was discovered that the Utah senator had operated an anonymous Twitter account to defend himself from criticism and launch his own attacks on President Trump.

Mr. Wilson has been less directly confrontational with Mr. Romney. In an April interview with Deseret News, he said he would reserve his comments about any one candidate’s record until he knows what the Republican field looks like.

“We’ll have those conversations down the road,” he told the Utah publication.

Though still in the exploratory phase, Mr. Wilson’s committee has already raised more than $2 million for a potential primary run.

NTD News reached out to Mr. Romney for comment but did not receive a response by the time this article was published.

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